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United we stand

Frankly, I’m sick and tired of discussing the actions of the Illinois state legislators which attempted to reform the tradeshow business here in Chicago. For the past four or five months I’ve lived it every minute of every day and could talk of little else at work.

Many of the people who put in the tradeshows were concerned they would be replaced by political patronage workers, and after reading the details of this 200 page bill, it seemed like a very plausible conclusion. Despite being aware of the possibility of this, many were caught unprepared. We have nobody to blame but ourselves.

The best way to escape trouble is to prevent it from happening in the first place. Those of us in the tradeshow business have begun to realize that an attack on our livelihood is not just a remote possibility, but inevitability. There is a need to prepare well in advance for this type of invented crisis atmosphere because it’s going to happen sooner or later, and you can bet the farm on that.

The main reason behind the problems facing the industry in Chicago was the generally poor state of the economy, which experts agree is the worst since the Great Depression. With the economic conditions of today, everybody is scrambling for a bigger piece of a smaller pie where the winners are the survivors and you have to learn how the game is played before you can expect to succeed in it.

Unfortunately, maintaining a long term presence in the legislative arena is both time consuming and expensive; however, when you consider that the alternative is extinction, it doesn’t seem that big of a price to pay. In this high stakes game, you don’t want to get caught on the outside of a door which has been slammed shut on you.

The economic health of our industry has become such a hot potato that it seems necessary to circumvent the politicians and make them irrelevant in this process. Nevertheless, this is often easier said than done. They are skilled in creating an environment where you have to get through them to get anything accomplished. They are the quintessential middle men, adding nothing, but experts at making themselves indispensable. They are in essence, a legislative toll booth on the highway to prosperity. They aren’t going allow themselves to get cut out of power, at least not without a fight.

If there was anything which we should have been learned from this, it is that compromise is not a dirty word. Compromise makes things happen. If there are two sides with conflicting agendas and neither is willing to compromise, an impasse will result and all parties will suffer. Unfortunately, many major players naively thought everybody else was going to make sacrifices but they would emerge unscathed. While some groups made significant concessions, many proposals were far too draconian to be acceptable. Furthermore, other reasons behind the problems of the industry are far beyond the control of any person or group to rectify.

So perhaps it’s time to take matters into our own hands and put aside our conflicting agendas long enough to promote our common objectives. We can continue to put up with this insanity every few years, or become proactive and recognize the latent power we possess. United we could use our leverage to encourage the polls to consider our necessities; not the opposite like it is now.

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